Think Working From Home Is Easy? Here Are 8 Things I’ve Learned

I have been working from home as a freelance writer (and sometimes editor) for almost five years now. I have to admit, it’s pretty great. It really suits me to be able to make my own schedule and work at my own pace, while making time for my family and creative projects. If you’re considering working from home, I can attest that it can work really well, but there are certain things you need to be aware of.

First of all, it’s really helpful to read up on the subject, talk to people you know who are working from home about their experiences, and search for online job postings in your field to get a feel of how things work. To get you started on your research, here are eight things you should know about working from home.

You have to get really good at self-motivation

It’s easy to set yourself a schedule, but it’s harder to stick to it when there’s no one looking over your shoulder. When you work from home, you are entirely responsible for getting yourself to work, and for keeping yourself on task. It’s easy to get distracted, but you have to keep in mind how this eats into your productive hours. If you’re not the kind of person who is able to keep themselves motivated throughout the workday without outside assistance and motivation, working from home is not for you.

That said, even if you are not extremely good at self motivation, you can always change that if you want to. Start one step at a time. Set yourself a task and a timeframe in which to complete that task. Get it done. Move on to another task, until self-motivation is habit.

You have to manage your time

Part of self-motivation is time management, but it deserves its own category. During the hours that you assign yourself to work on your daily tasks and projects, you have to manage that time wisely. It’s important to take breaks to stand up and stretch, eat lunch and perhaps even take a short walk in the afternoon… but you have to make sure these things don’t get out of hand.

It’s very tempting to take super-long breaks when you work from home. It’s fun, but it leads to less work being done. Therefore, it’s important to keep your time management in check so that you don’t sacrifice productivity.

You’ll have to choose a fitting workspace

When you work from home, your work space is of key importance.

The area where you work is where you spend the most time, so you have to make sure it’s comfortable and inspiring for you. You can set it up and decorate it however and wherever you please, but make sure you don’t put design over comfort. I spent way too many years at an uncomfortable desk setup — desk too low, had to hunch to reach laptop keys — and my back and shoulders are still angry at me for it.

You can designate a room of your house to be your office, or set up a desk in your living room, provided it’s practical for your family. Get creative and make sure you get a good chair or a standing desk. Think about putting your desk near a sunny window. Plants are nice, unless you have cats… then the plants will likely get knocked over.

It’s important to actively unplug after work hours

One thing about working from home that may be less appealing is that it’s easy to feel like you never really “leave the office,” because you live where you work. If you never get out of work mode, or are working at sporadic hours during the night on a regular basis, you’re probably feeling pretty tired and stressed. There’s work to be done, and time to do it, so you don’t actually stop working. This happens to some people, and it’s a trap.  

Luckily, there are ways to get over this hurdle. Stick to your schedule and don’t work outside the hours you designate yourself, unless it’s an emergency or a project deadline which requires you to bend hours. These circumstances are sometimes unavoidable, but don’t let it become too regular of a thing. No job is worth burnout. You have to unplug and make sure you’re still living a life outside of work.

You may have to report your taxes quarterly

If you’re an independent contractor working from home, you’ll be filing taxes as self employed. If this is the first year you’re doing this, it’s a really good idea to consult with a professional tax firm, or independent tax attorney. Depending on your income, you may only have to file once a year, or, if you make above a certain amount, you may have to estimate your income quarterly and file at the end of the year as well. Those are the rules.

Make sure to have enough savings for tax time

When you work from home, make sure to save enough money for tax season.

Unlike a traditional employer, the money you earn is yours; there are no taxes being taken off of your checks. However, because you have to pay yearly or quarterly taxes, it can be quite a large chunk at once. It’s wise to save a good amount of what you make each month to go towards your taxes. Talk to a tax attorney about how much that should be for your particular situation.

You may have to learn some new software

Depending on your line of work, you may have to meet with clients and co-contractors online using various audio and video tools (such as Skype). There are also many types of office water cooler-esque posting boards which many virtual offices use, like Slack. If you’re not up on the ins and outs of how to use these tools, you may wish to study up a little.

You’ll have to buy your own health insurance

Since you’ll be doing independent work for clients, and not signing on as an employee of a company, you’re probably not going to be getting health insurance as part of the package. Make sure you work the cost of an independent health insurance plan into your budget.

All in all, I enjoy working from home immensely and I highly recommend it for those who excel at working independently. If you work from home, what’s your favorite part about it?

— Tanya Mead

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